Tech hiring is rough now – except in one area (and you’ve probably guessed it)

Though layoffs have roiled tech giants over the last year, there's one area where tech talent, especially developers, remains in high demand – yup, artificial intelligence.

To review: In 2022, tech layoffs made headlines, as the sector's biggest names, from Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) to Amazon (AMZN) to Meta (META), began sending employees packing by the thousands. Layoffs have continued to pile up. Now, halfway into 2023, we've seen more tech employees laid off this year – 216,910 – than all of last year, 164,709, according to data.

For most tech workers, it's tough going right now – and it's started to show up in the data. Last month, tech-related jobs dropped by an estimated 171,000 while the unemployment rate for tech occupations rose to 2.3%, per CompTIA. (The national number: 3.6%.)

But if you're an AI engineer? Well, you're crushing it right now.

"It's like there are two stories playing out in Silicon Valley at the same time," said Jonathan Siddharth, CEO and founder of tech talent platform Turing, whose clients include Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and PepsiCo Inc. (PEP). "Story number one – the good times are over from 2021, and we all have to be more efficient in the way we hire and scale. Story number two is that everyone's excited about AI."

He added: "Every board is asking their CEO what the ChatGPT moment means for them, and every CEO is asking their executive team to look into generative AI... we're seeing a ton of excitement around AI projects and initiatives."

In fact, there's an "AI premium" when it comes to salaries, said founder Roger Lee.

Senior software engineers who specialize in AI and machine learning are fetching 12% more in salary than engineers who don't specialize in AI, according to data from, another company Lee founded.

"The demand for AI and ML [machine learning] engineers is undeniable with a huge focus on large language models," said Josh Hendler, Vice President, Network at Schmidt Futures, which recently launched an initiative called Tekalo. "However, based on conversations we’re having with both tech workers and organizations, we’re seeing incredible demand from engineers, product managers, designers, and other tech workers to work in spaces that matter."

"Climate is the most obvious demonstration of that," Hendler added, "but we are also seeing tons of interest in the education space, human rights, tech policy, responsible tech (including uses of AI), and improving government services delivery."

Also, new businesses will grow and emerge from the AI frenzy, which means even more jobs in that sector.

"We're also seeing new employers and businesses getting created," said Josh Reeves, CEO and co-founder of HR software company Gusto. "That's shot up like crazy, which isn't something we saw during the pandemic."

What's next?

"It's hard to predict the future, but I think objectively we can say that [layoffs and cost-cutting] seems to have slowed down," said Turing's Siddharth. "We do know that there'll be another burst in the future, but objectively we can say it does seem like people are more optimistic and I think AI is fueling a lot of that optimism."


Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks and on LinkedIn.

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